If you’ve been killing it in your indoor cycling class, you might be wondering if you have what it takes to beast on the road as well. Or, you might be terrified. Here’s what you need to take your cycling workout outdoors.
Get a helmet
Safety first. Outdoors, there are all kinds of ways you can fall off your bike, either through your own mistake or by colliding with others. While there’s some debate over whether casual bike riders really need helmets, you won’t see serious cyclists without one. If your head hits the pavement, you definitely want to be wearing a helmet (not to mentioned the fact you can be fined for not wearing one). Get a helmet that fits, and snug up the straps so it covers your forehead.
Find a safe place to start
If you haven’t been riding in a while, find an empty parking lot or a quiet bike path for your first outing. If you’re trying to divide your attention between operating the bike, getting a good workout in, and avoiding traffic, that’s a lot to think about. When you’re ready to venture forth, plan out a route in advance so you know where you can go without, for example, hitting a ton of traffic lights.
Learn to shift gears
In the cycling studio, you just reach down and adjust that knob whenever the instructor tells you to, or whenever you feel like it. If she yells out that you’re coming to a hill, nobody will know if you keep the resistance adjusted to a comfortable level instead.
But outdoors, it’s a different story. You can change gears, but nothing will make hills truly easy. (And if you try to route around them, you may just find yourself on a different hill.) So it’s worth learning how to properly change gears.
Normally you’ll try to keep up a good cadence (how fast your feet are moving) and adjust the gears to match. That means that when you’re on the flat, each push of the pedal provides a lot of force to move you down the road. And when you get to a hill, you’ll switch into a higher gear so that each push only moves you a tiny bit. This means you’ll go up hills slowly, but without tiring yourself out too much.
And don’t be ashamed of walking. If you live in a hilly place, eventually you’ll have to hop off your bike and walk it up a hill. You’re still getting your exercise, you’re just choosing the most efficient way to move on this particular bit of terrain. When you hit the top, just hop back on and keep moving.